FEBRUARY 25, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Ohio State freshman Malaki Branham was brilliant again as the No. 22 Buckeyes picked-up one of its most thrilling wins of the season on Thursday, knocking-off No. 15 Illinois 86-83 in Champaign.
The Buckeyes keep pace in the Big Ten race, improving to 11-5 in the conference play and 18-7 overall. Illinois is now just a half-game in front of the Buckeyes at 12-5 in league play.
Basketball is a game of runs and that was certainly evident on Thursday. Illinois used the early energy from the sellout crowd to run out to a 21-8 lead. The Buckeyes settled in and answered with a 14-2 run over a three-and-a-half-minute span to climb back into the game.
Trailing by one at the break, the Buckeyes came out of the locker room on another 14-2 run behind seven points from Branham and five from E.J. Liddell to take a 50-39 lead. The OSU lead grew to as many as 16 points on a couple of occasions, the last of which came with six minutes to play.
Illinois roared back with an 18-4 run over the next four minutes to pull within two at 78-76 with less than two minutes remaining. Clutch free throws by Branham and Liddell, coupled with another huge baseline jumper from Liddell, kept the Buckeyes in front and they would get one final stop to seal a big road win.
Branham has been extremely efficient over the last three games as tonight, he was 10-of-14 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the free throw line to finish with a game-high 31 points. He scored 21 points in the second half and scored 10 of OSU’s final 22 points.
Liddell, playing in his home state and in front of a raucous crowd, scored 21 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots. Kyle Young also gave the Buckeyes a huge lift as he tied his career-high with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Cedric Russell and Justin Ahrens each came off the bench and made big three-pointers.
Illinois was led by Alphonso Plummer’s 26 points on 8-of-10 from long range. Big man Kofi Cockburn scored 12 points but fouled-out with just a season-low three rebounds.
- Malaki Branham scored 20 or more points for the third consecutive game and the sixth time this season as he finished with 31 points. This was his second 30-point game this year.
- Branham was 10-of-14 shooting and is 68.1 percent (32-of-47) over the last four games.
- Kyle Young made his first five shots of the game and finished with career-high tying 18 points
- Young made multiple three-pointers for the first time since going 2-for-2 against Towson back on Dec. 8
- E.J. Liddell extends his streak of consecutive games with 10 or more points to 36 games.
- Liddell leads the Big Ten in blocks per game and his four tonight marked his 11th game this season with three or more blocks
- The Buckeyes shot 50 percent or better for the 12th time this season
- The 26 made free throws for the Buckeyes ties a season-high and it’s the seventh time this season in which they have made 20 or more free throws in a game
- The win is the second consecutive win in Champaign for the Buckeyes who also won 87-81 last year on Jan. 16, 2021
The Buckeyes will play its final road game of the season on Sunday when they travel to College Park, Md., to take on the Terrapins. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on CBS.
COURTESY OSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS